Drawing comparisons between Disney Infinity and the Skylanders franchise is obvious. When it comes to the toys-to-life genre, these two franchises make up the entire offering; upcoming LEGO Dimensions is going to have to do some serious catch-up work when it releases later this month. While Disney Infinity has always had an advantage in its wealth of intellectual property to draw from, Skylanders has always provided a better “gaming” experience. That advantage, however, is beginning to wane; with the release of Disney Infinity 3.0, Avalanche (and the multiple development partners) has made a concerted effort to improve on the game side of the franchise. While Disney Infinity 3.0 provides the best “game” in the series to date, there’s still room for improvement.
I personally feel as if the series’ other major hook, the creative Toy Box mode, is what’s holding Disney Infinity back from being a fantastic gaming experience. With the introduction of the Star Wars IP to the series’ stable of recognisable characters, I’ve never wanted a better Disney Infinity “game” than I have now. I adore Star Wars; I’ve always thought that Disney Infinity has enormous potential but has never quite hit its stride insofar as gameplay is concerned. That being said, with the introduction of Star Wars to the gaming franchise, I was interested to see whether or not the addition of this pop culture juggernaut would be enough to buoy up the Disney Infinity experience.
The answer to that, it turned out, would be “yes” and “no”.
The Starter Pack for Disney Infinity 3.0 comes with the Twilight of the Republic Play Set. For the uninitiated, a Play Set is a campaign that takes place inside the world of whichever Disney IP the Play Set is from. In this case, the Twilight of the Republic Play Set (itself a little, physical NFC trinket) takes place during the Clone Wars period of the Star Wars prequel films. So expect a young Jedi Anakin, Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka Tano (who is Anakin’s Padawan/apprentice from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon series).
Twilight of the Republic takes place across the planets of Tatooine, Geonosis, Coruscant and Naboo – all prequel film locations. Things get a little blurry insofar as timelines go, because Anakin is grown up, but Darth Maul turns out to be the primary villain of this Play Set – the same Darth Maul who Obi-Wan cut in half at the end of The Phantom Menace… when Anakin was a little boy. Really, though, that shouldn’t bug you as it’s a good example of the overall ethos that pervades Disney Infinity: anything goes and it’s all just for a bit of fun. And the “fun” part of that is what stood out for me in Disney Infinity 3.0: it’s not very often that the Star Wars franchise gets to be a little goofy or silly. Disney Infinity 3.0 has one foot firmly planted in “kids game” territory, and the other in “nods to Star Wars fans” territory. And I kind of loved that.
The Play Set provided some nice surprises as well: such as being able to flit between planets in different space ships, and being able to take part in some space battles while en route to another mission. The chunky, solid colour aesthetic of Disney Infinity translates really well into the numerous Star Wars ships and vehicles that lie scattered throughout this Play Set. Fun collectables include hunting for 100 Mynocks, and rounding up errant “younglings” to send back to the Jedi Temple. Other side quests are pretty straightforward affairs, ranging from fetch quests, collection quests, and platforming sections. There are a couple of standout side quests, and a few utterly bizarre ones – such as the one on Coruscant that sees you leading a troupe of dancing droids in a dance-off concert. There’s that “silly fun” aspect peeking out again.
The game’s combat has seen a marked improvement from Disney Infinity 2.0. The addition of Lightsabers and Force powers means a new range of abilities and skill tree unlocks. Combos are also pretty weighty albeit not very numerous. Still, this is a kids game, so throwing Bayonetta levels of combat strings would be a total miss insofar as target audience goes. On the flipside: this is a kids game that can get pretty difficult at times, with some tough combat encounters, tricky platforming sequences, and demanding challenges. I don’t consider that a bad thing, I was just surprised at how often I wondered how a six-year-old would deal with the tricky bits.
In total, you could blaze through Twilight of the Republic in about two hours. If you wanted to do all the side missions and find all the collectibles, then that play time increases to around eight to ten hours. However, judging Disney Infinity on its Play Sets would be to judge half of the game: the Toy Box offers a lot, and this time around things feel a little more grounded. For a start, the Toy Box hub (which you’re dumped into after the brief, playable introduction to Disney Infinity 3.0) is split into different segments that teach you about various aspects of this enormous creative suite. There is a staggering amount of content to unlock in the Toy Box mode, and there’s almost no end to the amount of fun stuff you can do with it all.
Running through a town scene straight out of A Nightmare Before Christmas, dual-wielding green lightsabers as Ahsoka Tono, fighting off Agrabah guards from Aladdin, while “What’s This?” played in the background has to be one of the more unlikely gaming moments I’ve had this year. The Toy Box and its seemingly endless amount of content to muck about with, is really just a fantastic excuse to mash together Alice in Wonderland with Pirates of the Caribbean. Or a Star Wars Ewok village with Toy Story trimmings. Yes, I flew around an Ewok village with Buzz Lightyear’s jetpack strapped to my character’s back. It was great; you should’ve been there.
For the creative types, the Toy Box remains a mindboggling offering of endless Disney IPs, all ready to be crammed together to make anything you can imagine. I decorated my Toy Box home with Guardians of the Galaxy walls and floors, and then had Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast as my butler. It made no sense, it looked bizarre, but I did it because I could.
Disney Infinity 3.0 is, without a doubt, the best game in the series so far. The actual gameplay has improved, but there are still some niggles that could be ironed out. The camera is a chore to use during Play Set campaigns, and on the occasion where the camera becomes locked in confined spaces, it does a bad job of keeping the action visible. I also experienced some freezes in gameplay every now and then; and there was one occasion where a cut scene glitched out, forcing me to reboot my PlayStation 4.
Was my time with the game enough to convince me to spend money on further Play Sets and characters? Yes. I will definitely pick up the Rise Against the Empire Play Set when it releases, and the quality of the Star Wars toys, with their chunky, Disney Infinity aesthetic, is so great that I can’t help but feel the urge to pick up more of them. On the whole this is a great offering, and if you can get past having to listen to Jar Jar Binks for about 30 minutes of game time, then there’s an enjoyable (albeit brief) prequel trilogy Play Set to get stuck into. Kids will love this; bigger kids with Star Wars obsessions will likely love it as well.